Saturday, December 23, 2023

Nurse Atholl Returns

By Jane Arbor, ©1952 

When Lyn Atholl’s fiancé abruptly broke their engagement only a month before the day fixed for their wedding, she felt that the shock had disrupted her whole life. She could not bear the thought of resuming her dearly loved profession of nursing—still less going back to Broadfields Hospital, which she had so recently left in happy expectancy among the good wishes of all her friends. A chance meeting with the famous surgeon, Mr. Warner Belmont, convinced her that she was wrong, and she decided to return to Broadfields. But—would she be able to go through with it?


“Lyn thought wryly that to dance with a battleship could not give a girl more confidence than to dance with Tom in a crowd, where it was always the other couples who got out of his way.” 

Lyn Atholl is leaving her beloved job to get married to a man she hasn’t seen in over a year. And that works out about as well as you expect it will. Turns out her beloved, Capt. Perry Garston, found himself a wife when he was stationed in Austria—and told her as much about Lyn as he told Lyn about Gerda, so you see what a narrow escape Lyn has had. She’s horribly embarrassed about her turn of fortune—much more than anyone in the current age would be, so it’s a little difficult to follow why she’s ready to chuck nursing altogether, not only the hospital she has just left—but soon imperious surgeon Dr. Warner Belmont is wagging a finger in her face, asking her, “Do you mean that your efficiency in your work depends solely upon the smooth running of your personal affairs? Isn’t that taking the importance of the individual and of self-pity too far?” 

Ultimately she decides that he’s right and goes back to Broadfields, but soon she’s “wondering about him as a man—the books he read, the games he played, the people he liked,” but of course that last question is easy: He doesn’t like anyone. Well, except Eve Adler, a petulant, beautiful, very talented singer whom he squires about town. We are frequently reminded that “he needs neither advice nor help, nor companionship nor anything at all from any other human being,” and that “he gets on splendidly with other men and he’s a kind of hero to boys. Yet when it comes to women—to you nurses particularly—he treats you as if he had only to put a penny in the slot to make you tick over like machines. No wonder you resent it.” But Lyn, inexplicably, does not resent it at all, and soon decides “her feeling for the man at her side transcended anything she had ever known before. And she had thought that, after Perry, she would never love again!” Now we only have to wade through 130 more pages of misunderstandings, scenes of Werner being cold and snippy and Lyn being dignified and admirable. Ultimately there’s a train crash and a flu epidemic, and suddenly he’s declaring his undying love for her.

It's not a dull book, though not outstanding, and the plot device of having the heroine fall for an ass who remains one until the final three pages is particularly maddening. Some of the characters are fun to watch—the rotten women especially, it must be confessed—and Lyn is a quiet, competent type, even if she is ready at the drop of a ring to walk away from her profession, though she admits that “all she had learnt in nursing would be wasted” after she marries. Overall you might do worse than to see Nurse Atholl return—even if she’s just going away again at the end.

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